Duterte outbursts scare US firms
By Ditas Lopez
Signs of investor discontent with Rodrigo Duterte’s outbursts against the US are multiplying with American companies starting to hold off investing in the Philippines, the nation’s electronics and semiconductor industry said.
“The concern is that we have lost momentum,” Dan Lachica, head of the Semiconductor and Electronics Industries in the Philippines Inc., said in an interview Friday. “Investments have been held and orders have been canceled. Hopefully, it doesn’t get to the point that they shut down.”
After initially causing declines in the stock and currency markets, Duterte’s repeated attacks against the US since September may be finally taking their toll on direct investment. The concerns of SEIPI, the largest organization of foreign and local electronics companies, mirror those raised by the American Chamber of Commerce, which has warned the president is creating unease.
“We’re requesting an audience with the president so he can hear the concerns of our industry’s chief executive officers,” Lachica said, declining to name the companies that have halted investment. Texas Instruments Inc. and Moog Inc. are among U.S. electronics companies with factories in the Philippines.
Duterte’s remarks are not anti-American but anti-interference, Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said. “
He promotes and protects investors and promotes exports.,” he said in a mobile-phone message Sunday.
Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez said no American company is leaving the country and he assured top US business executives in a meeting this month that economic relations between the Philippines and the U.S. will remain intact despite Duterte’s rhetoric.
The American Chamber of Commerce could not be reached for comment.
Electronics account for about half of Philippine shipments, which climbed in September after 17 months of decline. Exports of semiconductors and electronics rose 0.7 percent in the first nine months of 2016 from a year earlier.
SEIPI is pinning its hopes on the election of Donald Trump as the new US president to reinvigorate the relationship between the two nations. Duterte has told President Barack Obama to “go to hell” and announced a “separation” from the US during an official visit to China.
“It’s a good sign that Trump’s message even in the United States is conciliatory,” Lachica said. “It’s a good sign that President Duterte called him up and offered congratulations and looking forward to strengthening their relationship.”